Can Comparative Advertising Be Effective in Germany? A Tale of Two Campaigns

Manfred Schwaiger

Carsten Rennhak
Reutlingen University

Charles R. Taylor
Villanova University

Hugh M. Cannon
Wayne State University


One of the consequences of today's maturing global economy is an increasing pressure for economic efficiency. In the case of advertising, competitive pressures are pushing companies to search for ever better ways to communicate their messages. Presumably, the macro effect of this trend is to create an environment in which consumers have access to better information for making their decision.

Comparative advertising is a case in point. What better way to give consumers decision-relevant information than directly comparing the products among which they have to choose? And, consistent with this logic, comparative advertising seems to be gaining in popularity. But it is not without problems. Its effectiveness depends on two key assumptions: First, it must end up providing better information to consumers. Second, the comparisons through which this information is delivered must not be so offensive as to undermine or otherwise offset its informational value. While information tends to be culturally neutral, the way it is generally presented is not. Specifically, comparing products, or even making references to a competitor in such a way as to imply their product's inferiority-that is, comparative advertising-is potentially much more offensive in some cultures than others.